Connecting People and Government : A Case Study of UNA District in Himachal Pradesh

Mr. Satpal Singh*

The Department of Information and Public Relations since its inception in 1954 has passed through various stages and has done its best to equip itself with what was required to meet the challenges of times and thus make its presence felt through the optimum use of its potential. The main function of the department is to disseminate the policies and programmes of the government in the right perspective and to gauge and assess reactions of the quarter concerned and keep the government informed about their impact on the masses. Besides, it also educates the people about various programmes launched for their welfare by the Centre and State governments. This task is indeed a challenging one due to the difficult terrain, remoteness of areas, and the inadequate reach of communication. With the latest technological advancements in the field of communication and information this task has become all the more challenging.The Department of Information and Public Relations is keeping pace with the times and has emerged as a substantially dependable organization which can deliver the goods and as such cope with the growing publicity demands and can ensure the uninterrupted flow of information to the beneficiaries in the state. Although the publicity cannot be measured in terms of money and goods, yet the department continues to perform from behind the curtain without the least intention to come on the forefront just to make other see the services it renders.

The Department of Information and Public Relations has adopted different strategies for different strata of society so that the objective assigned to it could be achieved in right earnest.  For instance, the tools of publicity that are generally used in the urban areas are different than the tools that are used in the rural areas. The people of urban areas are comparatively more educated, more aware about the happenings at the regional, national and international levels because of their easy access to the print and electronic media. Their dialogue with each other is more subtle, analytical and the opinion they form after a thorough scan of events taking place in the information loaded world is too strong to waver whether it is in favour or against.

The people living in rural areas are more often than not guided or tutored by their collective conscience (sanskars) stored at the back of their minds, especially with the near absence of print and electronic media. Apart from this, they also depend upon the teachers or any other official posted in the village to know what is happening beyond the periphery of their villages. And the people living in the remotest areas bank highly upon the traditional media where the reach of print electronic media is a far cry. This necessitated the department of Information and Public Relations to devise different strategies. Accordingly it has done its best to equip itself with the kind of publicity tools which suited different strategies and realize the objectives it has set for itself and also contribute in the expected way.

UNA District as Per 2011 Census of India

Total population

5,21,057

Geographical Area

1540 Sq. Kms

Density

338 Per/Sq.Kilometer

Males

2,63,541

Females

2,57,516

Sex Ratio

977/1000 Female/Male

Overall literacy rate

87.23%

Male literacy

92.75%

Female literacy

81.67%

Administrative divisions

Una and Amb & Bangana (sub-divison).

No. of Tehsils

Una, Amb,Bangana & Haroli.

No. of Sub- Tehsils

Bharwain

Development Blocks

Una,Amb,Gagret,Dhundla (Bangana)&Haroli

Total number of villages

866

Panchayats

235

Local Urban Bodies

M.C Una,Nagar Panchyat(NP) Mehatpur, NP Santoshgarh,NP Daultpur Chowk.
Assembly Segments Una,Haroli,Gagret,Kutlehar,Chintpurni
Parliamentary Constituency Harmirpur
Distance From State Capital Shimla 240 Kms
Nearest Airport Chandigarh 120 Kms
Major River Swan River
Culture Mixed (Punjabi & Pahari)
Traditions Mixed (Punjabi & Pahari)
Economy Agriculture Based
Languages spoken Pahari (Unnabi), Punjabi, Hindi

Una District

It is in the south-western part of Himachal Pradesh. It is bounded by Kangra, Hamipur and Bilaspur districts of Himachal Pradesh in the North, East and South respectively, by Hoshiarpur district of Punjab in the West. It lies within North latitude 31°21 and 31°50′ and East longitudes 71°55 and 76°28′.  Una district is in Himalayan foothills zone bounded by plains of Punjab in the West and Solahasinghi Dhar in the east. In the western part also, there is hill range whose maximum height is about 600 metres. The altitudes vary from mere 350 metres to over 1,200 metres on the Solahsinnghi Dhar. Shiwalik ranges experience heavy rainfall. The hill ranges are covered by scanty vegetation comprising mostly of shrubs. The breadth of ‘Jaswan Dun valley’, ranges from seven kms to 14 kms and the town of Una, which is near the middle of the Dun is on the elevation of 1,404 feet above sea level. It passes southwards, it increases steadily in width and elevation until its highest peak reaches at ‘Bharwain’, which is 3,896 feet above sea level. Una is bounded by river Beas on the north and river Satluj in the east. The Swan River which is basically seasonal, flows right across the Jaswan valley towards south until it submerges in the Satluj near Anandpur. The Swan River indeed is the lifeline of the Jaswan Dun valley. The main formations of this area are of alluvial fans, river terraces gravel beds of recent age and the sandstone and claystone. The Shivalik comprises conglomerates, friable sandstone, siltstone and claystone. Conglomerates are loose, consisting mainly of cobbles and pebbles of quartzites and stray pebbles of granite lime stones, sandstones and lumps of clay stones are also present. Alluvium occupies the vast stretch of the plain. They contain sand, silt and clay in varying proportions.

Survey

One hundred respondents have been approached in each segment of the sample. The data for observation has been taken from the respondents including students, employees, un-employed, housewives, labourers, businessmen, shopkeepers, farmers etc. All the respondents have given their objective and subjective views on various problematic areas of public relations keeping in view the various levels of ‘responsiveness’ and their varied responses have been interpreted. The data has been collected from Una districts and is being discussed separately as follows:

Out of the total sample for district Una the percentage of male and female respondents was 60 and 40respectively. As for the educational qualifications of the respondents, no one was below Matric. 3 % respondents had studied up to the 12th standard, 32 % of the respondents were graduates, 65% of the respondents were either post-graduates or had acquired Ph.D degree. It shows the distribution of occupational structure of the respondents chosen for the study. The tabulated figures show that 63% were students, whereas 27% of the respondents were in service. The figure of the unemployment respondents was 4%. The housewives were 2%, 1% of the respondents belonged to the ex-servicemen category. None of the respondents were farmers. Lastly, 3% respondents were businessmen.

About their understanding of the term ‘Public Relations’, 53 % of the respondents, belonging to different categories, saw it as ‘Relationship with Public’, whereas 4% of the respondents observed that the term meant ‘Publicity’. 22% of the respondents were of the view that PR aimed at both relationship and publicity. On the other hand, there were only 2% respondents who viewed PR as a mode of image making, whereas 16% of the respondents have treated PR as a source of ‘entertainment. Only 3% of the respondents have not formed any opinion in this regard.

In order to know the ‘Frequency of Visit’ paid by the personnel of Public Relations Department, the tabulated figures indicate that 38% of the respondents have confirmed that the personnel pay monthly visit to their respective areas. On the other hand, there were 4% of the respondents who have pointed out that they usually pay visit once a year, whereas 30% of the respondents have said that the personnel belonging to Public Relations Department usually visit them once in six months. Lastly, 28% of the respondents did not respond at all in this regard.

In order to know the ‘Kind of Officers’ visiting the areas of respondents, it has been observed that 18% of the respondents have appreciated the use of ‘Vernacular Theatre Groups’ for accomplishing the objective in their respective areas. On the other hand, there were 31% respondents who have appreciated the role of ‘Bhajan Mandali’ for performing this task. There were 23% of the respondents who have appreciated the role of ‘Health Department’ group for performing this task. It is obvious from the tabulated figures that 25% of the respondents have appreciated the role of ‘Regional Publicity Officer’ in this regard. Lastly, 3% of the respondents have failed to form any opinion.

In order to know the target group discussed by the Public Relations officials, 32% of the respondents said that the officers usually discussed the matter with individuals, whereas 23% of the respondents discussed the matter with the ‘group people’ too. On the other hand, there were 20% of the respondents who have pointed out that the Public Relations officials organize a ‘Group-talk’ too. 25% of the respondents discussed about the other sources.

In order to know the main issues taken up for discussion in an area, the tabulated figures indicate that the 20% of the respondents have pointed out that issues like achievements of the government were usually taken into consideration. On the other hand, 31% of the respondents pointed out that the major issues were ‘public welfare oriented’ programmes. On the contrary, there were 12% of the respondents said that the thrust areas of discussion were usually on health issues. Lastly, 37% of the respondents failed to form any opinion on the thrust area of Publicity/Public Relations Department.

Regarding the mode of the media used to the maximum by the department for publicity, it has been observed that 55% of the respondents have favoured ‘Press’. It is followed by ‘Radio’ as enumerated by 38% of the respondents. On the other hand, only 2% of the respondents have highlighted the role of ‘Natak Mandali’. 2% of the respondents have highlighted the role of exhibitions as a mode of publicity for government programmes in the study areas. Lastly 3% of the respondents have highlighted the ‘Others’ role as a mode of publicity.

As for the preference of the respondents, 55% have favoured the print media, whereas, 38% have highlighted the significance of ‘Electronic Media’ which include radio and T.V. etc. Lastly, there were 2% of the respondents who have preferred the role of theatre, cinema, exhibition, cable network. 2% have listed ‘bhajan mandli’ and 3% miscellaneous sources for performing the publicity tasks.

With regard to ‘Level of Satisfaction’ on using the different modes of media for publicity, it has been observed that 73% of the respondents have been ‘Satisfied” with the different mass media used by the department. On the other hand, 23% respondents were not satisfied with the services provided by the department. Lastly, only 4% of the respondents have shown indifferent approach in this regard.

Study shows the benefit to the people brought about by the role played by the Public Relations Department. It has been observed that the 44% of the respondents have pointed out that they have been benefited. On the other hand, 32% of the respondents have not been benefitted by any scheme of the government departments and 24% respondents are not sure about this.

To review the benefits of the schemes it has been observed that education services benefitted 67% of the respondents. On the other hand, 23% of the respondents have been helped financially by the government departments, whereas 3% of the respondents have been benefitted by the health services rendered by the government..On the other hand, services like family welfare, children and women welfare and other miscellaneous services, rendered by the state health department have proved helpful to 7% beneficiaries in their respective areas.

Conclusion

The role of public relations for the implementation of development projects in Una has been laudable. Several region-based studies have proved that the public relations, directly or indirectly, plays a positive role in changing the perceptions of the people regarding developmental projects. The question is whether the public has a positive or negative view on the officials’ association with the development work. Largely, this perception is determined by the official of the Public Relations Department. This study reveals to what extent the development projects reach the rural and urban populations through the agency of the Public Relations Department. Public Relations Department acts as a powerful link between the government and the people. It gives priority to the social media instruments for the propagation of government plans. How aware are the public regarding the methodologies of the Public Relations Department? It will not be an exaggeration to say that Public Relations Department is the meter to gauge the functional relations between the government and the public.

Hence, it would be pertinent to draw conclusions from the  examination of the various tabulated figures, which indicate a considerable subjective view on functioning of Public Relations Department and the responsiveness of the people, belonging to different strata of society. According to some of the respondents, the functioning of Public Relations Department is up to the mark, whereas a considerable number of respondents have pointed out some of the pit falls in the functioning of the Department for ‘publicity services rendered’ for the state sponsored schemes and development programs periodically executed in their respective areas. It also includes some of rating measures which may prove as corrective measures for further improvement in the functioning of Public Relations Department in accordance with the changing scenario in Himachal Pradesh. Finally, we can conclude that the overall the Directorate of Information and Public Relations of Himachal Pradesh was acting as a bridge between the common people and the government .

References

  • Ahuja,B and S.Chabbra(1989) Public Relations. New Delhi, Surjeet Publications.
  • Allyn and Bacon (2000) Public Relations Writing- Principles in Practice, Chicago, Prentice Hall.
  • Baran J. Stanley (1998) Introduction to Mass Communication-Media Literacy and Culture, New York, Mc Graw Hill.
  • Bob Carrel (1999) Public Relation Writing-Form and Style, Boston, Wadsworth Thomson Learning.
  • Dizazzo Roy (2000) Corporate Media Production, California, Focal Press.
  • Frank B and Frazier(2002)  Public Relations-Principles, Cases and Problems, New Delhi, Surjeet Publications.
  • J V Vilanilam, (2011), Public Relations in India, Sage Publication, India.
  • Joseph Fernandez, (2004) Corporate Communications-A 21st  Century Primer, Sage Publication.
  • Rayudu C.S (1998) Media and Communication Management, Mumbai, Himalaya Publishing House.
  • Sandra M. Oliver, (2004), Handbook of Corporate Communication and Public Relations, Routledge.
  • Sengupta, (2005), Management of Public Relations and Communication, Vikas Publishing House.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close